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Justice in America is connected

As long as Native Americans (Indians) are under attack, no one in this country can be free. Not women, blacks, immigrants, Trans. Justice for all means does not mean it is the same for all. It means it carries with it a sense of obligation to all.

Yet, America refuses to look at its treatment of the indigenes on this earth without its own origin story taking the front page – white supremacy, mass capitalism, and aggressive Christianity. Such denial of justice sometimes takes on a profound obsession so that we as a country no longer recognize how much we all have given up.

Watching the recent TELEVISION documentaries about Indian women and especially the spectacular story of Madonna Thunder Hawk’s leadership during the YEARS of the AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT helped me understand the impact of the movement on our continuing quest for our rights as sovereign peoples.

Madonna’s story gives eloquent and documented information about how it was in those crucial days and even though it is an oft-told story of the white American’s obsession with race and power, her stubborn participation encourages us to look again.

A second look shows how the public voice here in our area (non-Indian newspapers, politicians, state officials, the law), tried to disqualify this energetic, articulate, charismatic and wise woman as a staying voice for the future of her people.

Stigmatizing people was a function of the times and it continues to bedevil us. Indians as adversaries of the good, wicked and mean. Had the realistic positions of people like Thunder Hawk, Russell Means and countless others and their calls for justice been taken seriously, we might today have appropriate economic development of our lands and resources (instead of glitzy casinos): We might not be in constant and ongoing court fights with the state of South Dakota to defend our children from cruel adoption traumas. No one has the right to take our children from us.

We might grow Hemp on every reservation in the area, which people like Madonna (and White Plume) told us years ago was our sovereign right. We might even have decent health care – if we could get America to permit the Madonnas among us (and all the others) to speak of their dreams. A seat at the table where decisions are made is not too much to ask.

The impact of the AIM Movement told all of us that flooding thousands of acres of treaty protected lands would not end this region’s non-Indian authority to continue the greedy destruction of our environment. Madonna’s story tells us that it is okay for us to weep for family displacement.

The point is, the critics are still with us and the decisions being made are often not those made by those who were too often silenced and criticized. A poet once wrote about “the roads not taken”, and it is a poem which tells us how much we in this country lost in the silencing of the native voices on native roads, yet, the documentary of Madonna Thunder Hawk’s story tells us that forty years later, brave indigenous people will continue to seek the right road….and take it.


(Contact Elizabeth Cook-Lynn at

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